If you’re imagining a retail store, you’re probably visualizing some products (and if so, just remember, those products can’t have words on them either!), some brand colors, and maybe a few rows of varying colors.
If you’re visualizing a service provider’s website, you’ll likely see much less.
Take mine for example. The homepage opens up. You see an image of me sitting on a chair, wearing a yellow sweater and holding an open white book. Then, if you scroll down, you’ll see alternating rows of white and gray, until you come across three tiny circular pictures of OTHER people (which, when there’s words, you can tell are testimonials, but without words, they are just three small photos floating on a gray background. Oh, and you’ll also find 6 or 7 black or yellow buttons and a logo at the bottom of the page.
The rest of my site is vaguely similar. There’s photo of me drinking coffee, one where I’m drawing boxes on a large white sheet of paper to indicate something to another person who is in the frame, and a picture of me standing in front of a rainbow that’s been painted onto a wall.
If someone showed you this site without any indication of who I am or what I do, and there were no words on the page to help you figure it out, what would you think the site was about? What would it tell you about me? Would what you see convince you that I’m someone you need to hire?
I mean, the answer is obvious here. Without website words your audience isn’t able to make any type of judgement about who you are and what you do. Sure, they can judge you on your physical appearance and determine whether you look friendly or kind or confident or playful, but what does that matter, anyway?
Now, we’re talking about web copy today simply because I’m biased. As a website copywriter, my job is to write website words, and I’m pretty passionate about cheering on creative entrepreneurs and smart service providers.
But the point works the same when you translate it to any type of marketing message.
Without words, there’s a very slim chance that your audience is going to understand your message and more importantly there’s an even smaller chance that they’ll connect with it.
Now, what about you? If you’re a small business owner, you know that the internet is a driving force in your business success. But, are websites as important now as they were before?
Do I need a website for my business in 2023? Do you?
Wondering, “Do I need a website for my business?” You’re about to find out.
Here’s exactly what was discussed on the show:
Can you imagine what a website would be like without any words on it?
Erin shares a visualization of exactly what her website would look like without words. Do you think you’d be able to tell what she did, who she is, and who she serves with just this information?
Recommendations are no longer the first step in the sales process. Taking questions to the internet is the very first thing people do to research.
Erin’s research process for college, grad school, wedding planning, and buying a house. And, how these searches influenced her buying decision.
Erin’s true feelings about the marketing efforts of home improvement contractors. There may or may not have been a little teasing here. We refuse to tell on the show notes. You’ll have to listen in!
The answer to “Do I need a website?” for businesses that have been in business for a while (and whether or not rebranding is the right move).
The answer to “Do I need a website?” for individuals who are new to the business world — and what you can do if you’re not financially prepared to hire a copywriter.
Learn more about your host, Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and went on to co-found Spry, an award-winning online literary journal.
When Erin’s not helping her clients understand their website data or improve their website copy, you can catch her hosting the Talk Copy to Me podcast and guesting on shows such as Profit is a Choice, The Driven Woman Entrepreneur, Go Pitch Yourself, and Counsel Cast.
Stay in touch with your favorite copywriter, Erin Ollila
Do I need a website for my business in 2023? Stop wondering and read the transcript to find out!
NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.
Erin Ollila 00:04
Hey friends, welcome to the Talk Copy to Me podcast. Here we empower small business owners to step into the spotlight with their marketing and messaging. I’m your host, Erin Ollila. Let’s get started and talk coffee. Close your eyes for a second. No, I’m not joking. Bear with me here. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. And imagine a website. Any website. It can be your website, a store that you shop from regularly or something that you use for work. Now, imagine that very same website void of all words, what would it look like? If you’re imagining a retail store, you’re probably visualizing some products. And if so just remember, those products can’t have words on them either. You might see some brand colors and maybe a few rows of varying colors. If you’re visualizing a service providers website, you’ll likely see much less. Take mine, for example, the homepage opens up and you see an image of me sitting on a chair, wearing a yellow sweater and holding an open White Book. Then if you scroll down, you’ll see alternating rows of white and gray until you come across three small circular pictures of other people, which when there’s words, you can obviously tell our testimonials. But without words, they’re just three tiny faces floating on a gray background. Oh yes, you’ll also find six or seven black or yellow buttons, again, without words on them, and a logo at the bottom of the page. The rest of my website is vaguely similar. There is a photo of me drinking coffee, one where I’m drawing boxes on a large white sheet of paper to indicate something to another person who’s on the frame, and a picture of me standing in front of a rainbow that’s been painted onto a wall. So what are these images tell you about me? If someone showed you this site without any indication of who I am, or what I do, and there were no words on the page to help you figure it out? What would you think the site was all about? What would it tell you about who I am? What would you see that convinced you that I was someone that you needed to hire? I mean, the answer is obvious here. Without website words, your audience isn’t able to make any type of judgment about who you are and what you do. Sure, they can judge you want your physical appearance and determine whether you look friendly, or kind or confident or playful. But what does that matter anyway? Now we’re talking about web copy today, simply because I am biased. As a web site copywriter. My job is to write website words. And I’m pretty passionate about sharing on creative entrepreneurs and smart service providers. I want to make you look as good as you can possibly be. So the right people come to you like, it’s my job. But it’s also what I want to do because I really genuinely like my clients. The point works the same, though, if we’re not talking about website words, when you translate it into any type of marketing message, the point stays the same. Without words, there’s a very slim chance that your audience is going to understand your message. And more importantly, there’s an even smaller chance that they’ll connect with it. But let’s stick with websites for a second. Think about any time that you’ve ever needed to hire someone for a service, or you’re trying to do research before making a major life decision. What do you do first? Chances are you open a web browser and you type in a phrase or a question, right? The internet has completely changed the way that people do everything in their life. And while personal recommendations may have been how people started their search for a service provider, or found a new store in the past, it’s not generally how it works in today’s day and age. So let me share an example. One of the first times I remember relying on the internet to help me narrow down my options and make a decision was when I was applying to college. Instead of searching through the three inch thick book, my mom bought me of all the possible schools I could attend. I remember typing out something like which college has good literature or writing programs. And I’m pretty sure I asked it as a sentence because, you know, back in the day there was such thing as Ask Jeeves. So you would Ask Jeeves the question. Now, obviously, I’m an older millennial. So let’s just say that my results from my undergraduate search were not as smart as you’d find. Now, Google was not as sophisticated but when I applied I took graduate programs years later, I took the exact same route in my research. And I Googled Creative Writing MFA programs. So if you’re wondering where I’m going with this, bear with me, I promise I have a solid point here. You see, when I clicked through the search results, I made almost immediate decisions regarding how I felt about the school, based on the MFA programs website. Think about it, if I’m going to be spending 10s of 1000s of dollars to go to school, their, their websites better be pretty damn on point, right. And I didn’t go straight into graduate school for my undergrad either. So my age isn’t even a factor here. The Internet obviously improved, and the schools really should have invested their marketing dollars into their web design and into their website copy. But let me tell you friends, many of those websites were pretty unimpressive, which obviously helped me immensely narrow down my list of MFA programs to apply to, but it certainly didn’t help the schools who are likely bullying candidates who couldn’t even bother to stay on their websites, because they were doing nothing to attract them to build a connection or to entice them to apply. Which is ridiculous, right? Because colleges get money from every single person who applies as an application fee. I mean, if I got paid from every single person who filled out my contact form, or signed up for my email newsletter, you better believe that I’m going to put a ton of effort into making sure that I’m doing everything I possibly can to make those people really damn excited about wanting to work with me. Which brings me back to the point of this episode, why aren’t more small businesses investing in their websites? Sure, there’s a good chance you don’t have people paying an application fee just to be considered as potential clients. But you are in the very same boat as these colleges, when it comes to the need that you have to attract the right audience, to establish your credibility, to build connections and to showcase just how awesome your small business truly is. Okay, before we continue here, I want to take a second to remind you of the limited time offer I am sharing with my listeners, due to the launch of this podcast. If you want me to check out your website, I am happy to do so I know I’m lecturing you right now on the importance of having a solid web presence. But instead of lecturing, I can head on over to your website, and share my thoughts with you on what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can take those thoughts, and make the improvements needed to make you feel a lot more confident about your web presence. There is a link in the show notes where you can sign up for this, all you have to do is give me your name, your email and your URL. And like I said, within one week, I will be in touch with a completely personalized website review. So head on over there. Now while you’re listening to me talk about the rest of the stuff in our episode today. All right, so I know there are some of you out there who are probably thinking to yourself, do I even really need a website if I have such a strong social media following? I hear this all the time. And of course, a strong social media following is awesome. I’m not going to say that it’s not. It’s great that you’re active on social media. But you don’t own your content on social media. I know, I know, I know, no one reads the terms and conditions anymore. But if you did you know that everything you share online is owned by the platform you’re sharing it on. All right, maybe owned isn’t the right word here. But least let’s go with least everything you share online is leased by the platform you’re sharing it with. I don’t want to scare you, but it’s true. Whatever it is that you post can be used by these social media accounts that you think is yours, but isn’t actually your words. Think of it like this. When you’re in grade school, and you’re sitting in a classroom. You think the desk is yours, right? Every day you show up and you sit in the very same debt desk for the entire school year. But when you leave school at the end of the year, do you take your desk home with you? Do you bring that chair home with you? No, you don’t. It stays in the classroom because that desk and Matt shares are owned by the school. That’s exactly how social media operates. But let’s get back to messaging. It’s great if your social media efforts are performing well for you. But what if all social media vanished? All the networks just went away? I mean, think about how much people panic when Instagram is down for the day or Facebook glitches out on them. And even worse than that, I know many entrepreneurs who have gotten completely kicked out of their professional accounts and lost every single one of the followers. They work so hard to gain, to build connection with and to keep entertain years and years and years of hard work that just vanished in an incident. And even if you’re first going to social media to learn about people, or you’re finding people on social media that you might want to work with, what’s the next thing that you do when you’re looking to learn more information about them, you go over to their bio, and you find out if they have a website, right? Or even if you’re an Instagram Stories, maybe you click on the link that they share that leads you to their website. If you’re listening to a podcast, and you’re really vibing, with a guest on the show, and you like what they’re saying, what do you do, you go to the show notes, and you click on over to their website. Alright, I’m lecturing now. So let’s just move past social for a second, and jump back into my previous example about grad school. I continue to do the same thing over and over and over again, depending on all of my life’s transitions I take to the internet before I make decisions. I mean, don’t you I’m pretty sure we all do right now. After getting engaged, I Googled all the possible things I needed in a wedding like a photographer, or a DJ, or even the venues that I was considering. Later, when I was ready to buy a home I took to the internet to find a realtor. Now, let me tell you, that was not a pleasant experience. Real estate agents are often lucky to share a website with the larger company that they work for. Unlikely in this case, they only really need to provide a picture and a bio, a bio, which I might add says very little about what it’s like to work with them. And a real estate agent is someone that you really want to know, their their process, how they approach things. You don’t learn that from a bio that’s on a website. All right, if I’m going to pick on service providers, I might as well jump to my favorite group of professionals that I really do love to bully, when at least when it comes to their marketing, not when it comes to their business practices or their efforts, just their marketing. You ready? Contractors. Oh, goodness gracious, do not get me started on my feelings about contractors websites. To be clear here. When I say contractor, what I really mean is anyone who works on any part of a person’s home. So a home improvement contractor. It could be people who do roofing or painters or landscapers chimney cleaners, whatever you can imagine. That’s what I’m talking about. It is so rare to see a website that’s done well, from a home improvement contractor. I am constantly confused at how these professionals are still in business. And even more than that, how they are booked out way far in advance. I mean, I know that they’re booked out because people have a need for them. But that is legitimately the only reason because most contractors are not investing in their marketing at all. If you have the patience right now, pick a home improvement type of project and Google whatever type of contractor that comes to mind and include the words near me. So for example, landscapers near me, or drywall installers near me, now you have results, click on any of those websites and tell me what you see. Most of these contractors have outdated sites that say almost nothing about their services, their pricing their process, it’s non existent, you’re not going to find testimonials, and there’s a very good chance they might not even have a contact form, or at least a contact form has working on their site. For a while this bugged me, especially as a website writer, and I decided I’m going to start taking social media, right? I get that it’s tough to run a business and do all of the marketing on your own. home improvement contractors do not want to be sitting around designing and writing their own website words. They want to be doing whatever it is, that’s their specialty. I get it. So let’s hop over to social media. Maybe they made a quick account that they take pictures of their work and share their stuff. Sometimes that’s the case, but most of the time, it’s not. In general, these types of businesses are working without a marketing plan. Alright, you might be thinking right now. All right, Aaron, you told me that these people are still getting business. So why do they need a website? Well, because they’re missing out on valuable customers. What they’re doing right now is they’re trading their time for money. And any type of customers they’re not giving themselves the option to handpick their clients. They’re working with whomever, right? They’re just simply booking their schedule, you know, filling in some names on a calendar and practicing that over and over again. And they’re not getting to handpick their clients or in raise their rates because they’re not investing in their marketing. Now, if I have a home improvement contractor who is listening to this, I’m going to just stop apologize for picking on you for so long. You know, it’s true though, and you know, your competitors websites are junk. And if you personally need help contact me. And I will definitely help you here because I have such a passion for the fact that home improvement contractors have the worst, worst worst websites in the world. Alright, if you’re not a contractor, are you starting to see where I’m going with this, your website plays an extremely important role in attracting the right clients, which secure business for you. But on top of that, your website also helps your audience get primed before working with you or before committing to work with you. If you can share your process, or your pricing or your techniques, or the benefits and values of what it’s like to work with you, or what your products, benefits and values are on your own website, then the person who is considering hiring you, or considering buying from you has all the material that they need to make a decision. So when it’s time for a sales call, they’re primed to buy they are ready to go, you do not have to start from square one and convince them that you’re a potential candidate for their business. They know that already. And if you have a great website, they just want to take a moment to connect with you so that they can confirm that you really are the bee’s knees, right? They want to know that you’re the person that they imagined that you are and that there’s a connection and that they have a good reason to hire you. All right, so a follow up question to this episode may very well be does everyone need a website for their business? All right, like I mentioned in the last episode, the answer to that question really is, it depends. I promise, I’ll try to answer it for you though with a little bit more detail here. As a website copywriter who spends a ton of time massaging website words, I can tell you with complete confidence that a website will give you the return on investment, and more. And that makes me want to say then, yes, yes, you absolutely need a website. But that’s just blanket advice. And it really doesn’t work for everyone. If you have been in business for a long time. And you’re confident with your overall business and what you want to do to serve your clients the message you want to share who your clients even are, then absolutely 100% You need a website. And you need a really good website, too. Which might mean that whatever you have right now might need a rebrand. I think you can be in business for a while with a website that’s working well for you. But eventually, you get to a point where you realize you need to upgrade the messaging that you have on that site. And in that case, do the rebrand and invest more time and more money in your site. Because you know that the investment you put into it will definitely come back. But let’s talk about beginners for a second. As a small business owner myself, I completely understand that there are so many twists and turns in the early days of your journey. And a website may not be the best initial investment for you. Or I guess I should say hiring someone to do it may not be the best idea. Though, I still recommend creating a website for all of the reasons that I’ve already talked about. All right and lectured about throughout the entire episode. Instead of a financial investment, you’re going to have to make a time investment here. The hard work will be on you to DIY the design and to DIY the copy for your site. And if you do DIY the copy I just want to give you a pro tip here because I feel like most people aren’t aware that copywriters will often do this will work with di wires to help them strategize or edit the copy that they’re writing on their own. Right. I mean, obviously, not all copywriters do this. But it is something that I do. And it’s something that I enjoy, because I understand that we’re all coming from different points in our business. And not everyone can afford to hire a copywriter to do a completely done for them project or not everyone is ready to let go of those reins and give someone else control of the message and the business message, right. So if you do want to do it alone, you can hire someone to sit down and talk about the strategy of your site to work through the outline of the pages that you need. And then work through the outline of the type of copy that you need on those pages. Right and then you can follow up with that copywriter to have them edit your writing after it’s complete. I find that many business owners are good writers but they aren’t necessarily good marketers. And that is where a copywriter can help you massage that message write your website words can do the work that they need to do for you. If you have someone who has a marketing background that can help you figure it out. And wait a second. Let’s not forget about the value of a really well written landing page either for the newbies in the room if you haven’t email provider like ConvertKit, or mailer light or something like that, they generally have the option to build landing pages through their program. And on those landing pages, you can build a very simple page that introduces you as a business owner, and begins to share your message and offerings or your products with your audience. This landing page will give you credibility and show that you’re investing in your own business. And you can just have this there as like the initial chance where people can see who you are and what you do before you spend the time or the financial investment of getting your website up. So in my next episode, we’re going to hear from Malika Malhotra who is a brand strategist. And she and I are going to be talking about the value of finding your niche and then working within the boundaries of that niche. And I bring this up because I shared the conversation today about the importance of a website and how it’s kind of like your stomping ground for people to come find you and research you and make a decision on whether or not they want to work with you. Well, when you know when your niche is, your marketing message is suddenly that much clearer. After my conversation with Malika we’re going to spend a couple of episodes talking about website and web pages specifically, what goes on them what mistakes people are often making, how to quickly edit your pages so you can improve them. Basically everything you need to know about getting your web presence in the best shape it can possibly be. So stick around friends, we’re gonna get you feeling confident about your web presence in no time at all. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Top copy to me. If you enjoyed spending your time with me today. I would be so honored if you could subscribe to the show and leave a review. Want to continue the conversation. Head on over to Instagram and follow me at Erin Ollila. Until next time friends
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